MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Next weekend, a team from Minnesota will play in the PGA Junior League National Championships in Arizona. It’s basically the Little League World Series of golf.
To understand what a big deal this is, it helps to go to the numbers. Fifty-thousand kids nationwide compete in the PGA Junior League. These ten from Minnesota — all of them from TPC Twin Cities in Blaine — are one of just 12 teams of 10 to make it to nationals in Arizona.
“It’s pretty amazing for us to be this far. I mean, it’s less than 2% of kids are playing at this point,” Coach Tony Serpico said.
What makes it even more unique is the team dynamic.
“Normally golf’s an individual sport,” Serpico said.
But this is a two-person scramble. Kids are paired up as teammates.
“We’re so used to just trying to beat the brains out of each other, and so it’s finally nice to actually just work with each other,” said Carter Spalding said.
It was no easy tap-in to make it to nationals. They had to win three tournaments to earn it. But to really understand why it’s such a big deal to them, it helps to know it’s not what they’re playing for, but whom. The teammate they’re missing.
“[Jay Norman was] probably one of the nicest, selfless people I’ve ever met. He totally cared about us. He put us first. He was just all around a great guy,” Spalding said.
Jay Norman’s title was Director of Instruction at TPC Twin Cities. But to these kids, he was a lot more than that.
“I mean, they all loved him. He was pretty awesome,” Serpico said. “This was his baby, this was what he wanted to do all summer long. He could’ve been busy with adult lessons all day long, but he wanted to work with these juniors, and watch these kids grow.”
His investment in these kids is coming to fruition now, but Norman isn’t here to see it. He died unexpectedly at home this past spring.
“It was really hard on them. At that age especially, a lot of them, I mean, honestly, don’t understand death,” Serpico said. “There was a lot of tears and a lot of emotions.”
Which they’ve turned into determination.
“You can tell they want to play for him,” Serpico said.
This whole incredible run they’ve been on is all been in Norman’s honor. And it’s been incredibly meaningful for his wife, Jennifer, who has continued to follow the team and cheer them on each step of the way.
“It keeps me connected to Jay. And Jay loved these kids,” Jennifer Norman said. “Oh, it’s meant so much for our entire family. When I learned that they had won the regionals, I called Jay’s dad, and everybody was jumping … waiting for that phone call to see what had happened, and the whole Norman family was just screaming and screaming, ‘They won! They won!’ And I think it’s just given us some hope that through these kids, Jay’s spirit is still there, and something that he loved so much is being carried on.”
All the way to nationals.